December 8, 2011

Senate Committee Approves Bill to Protect RI Coastal Ecosystems

Legislation Expands Program Established by Sen. John Chafee

Washington, DC – A key Senate committee today approved legislation sponsored by U.S. Senators Sheldon Whitehouse and Jack Reed that will expand the John H. Chafee Coastal Barrier Resources System (CBRS), which preserves areas that protect Rhode Island from damaging storm surges. The measure would revise existing boundaries to include 45 acres of new lands in the CBRS, which protects sensitive ecological coastal habitats – and homeowners and developers – by discouraging building in hurricane prone areas.

The measure was approved unanimously by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, of which Whitehouse is a member.

“In Rhode Island, the health of our environment is directly connected to the health of our economy,” said Whitehouse. “This legislation honors the legacy of Senator John Chafee by including more Rhode Island lands in the highly successful CBRS program, and will help conserve vital coastal resources.”

“Nearly thirty years ago, former Senator John H. Chafee wrote the law to help preserve barrier beaches and today Senator Whitehouse continues to be a national leader when it comes to protecting our coastal resources,” said Senator Reed.

Established by Senator Chafee in 1982 with the passage of the Coastal Barrier Resources Act, the CBRS limits eligibility for federal subsidies on undeveloped coastal barriers in the Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and Great Lakes. The program has saved taxpayers more than $1 billion since it began.

The legislation approved today would revise the CBRS boundaries surrounding Easton Beach, Hazards Beach, and Almy Pond in Newport, and Sachuest Point in Middletown. The recommended changes are supported by the surrounding communities, including the City of Newport and Town of Middletown, as well as the RI Audubon Society, and the RI Coastal Resources Management Council.

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